How They Met Themselves

In my previous post, I mentioned Rossetti’s doppelganger painting, How They Met Themselves. I wanted to share his drawing of it above, because I prefer it to the painting. This is an ink and wash on paper and is not his original drawing, which I believe was lost. Rossetti referred to it as his ‘Bogie’ picture.  The concept of doppelgangers was something that had fascinated him for years.  It is perhaps odd, though, that he chose this particular theme to work on while he was honeymooning with Lizzie in Paris.

Two lovers walk through a forest and encounter their own doppelgangers.  Not phantoms or visions.  Themselves.  And looking at them, it’s hard to tell which is the real couple and which is the doppelganger.  Most of the accounts I’ve read assume that the woman who is collapsing is the one who has just come face to face with her doppelganger.  Although if you look at it with our modern eyes, especially if you’ve seen a few too many zombie movies, you might think otherwise.  Her arms are in a very Karloff-like pose, a la Frankenstein.  But yes, horror movie buff perspective aside, I’d say that a deep swoon like that comes from a romantic walk shockingly interrupted by the frightening appearance of doppelgangers.

Paranormal Encyclopedia described doppelgangers as follows: Ancient folklore and mythology portrays the Doppelgänger as an entity that casts no shadow and has no reflection. They are also known as “evil twins” and often have sinister motives and while most Doppelgänger cases are fiction, several real-life cases are noteworthy. Among them, one in which the Doppelgänger did cast a reflection.

In folklore, meeting your doppelganger is an omen of death.

So, is it unsettling that Rossetti had this concept on his mind so soon after marrying Lizzie?  She was so ill at the time of their marriage.  Actually, illness was the reason for their marriage.  It causes me to wonder, does this picture represent Rossetti’s hopes or fears?  Or we could look at it as the newly married, older Lizzie and Gabriel encountering their younger selves in the early days of their relationship.

I wonder what they would have said to each other.  What advice would Lizzie have given herself if she could?

I know this is a bit of a stretch, but am I the only one who notices a similarity in the pose of How They Met themselves and Beata Beatrix?


1 thought on “How They Met Themselves”

  1. I think the two images have a lot in common. I can see why Rossetti was thinking of death if Lizzie looked so ill at the time. There were no treatment centers for addiction at the time and Lizzie was taking a very dangerous narcotic. I have seen that look on the faces of people under the influence of various substances. Kind of disconnected from reality and unaware of their surroundings. I feel sorry for her. Who knows what she could have accomplished if she had lived longer.


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